GAO Report: HHS Needs Better Information to Assess Impact of Federal Programs on the Physician Workforce

In 2015, the federal government spent $14.5 billion to fund graduate medical education training for physicians. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was responsible for 90 percent of this spending. A new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommends information that the agency can collect to aid in determining whether the programs are helping to ensure that enough doctors with specialties that people need will be in the places where our country needs them.

“The government doesn’t know if [federal programs funding graduate medical education] are helping to build the physician workforce that the nation needs,” according to the GAO. The report says that the data collected don’t provide all of the information needed to fully understand how much training physicians costs, how much the government spends, or what the government gets for its money.  

“The new GAO report’s recommendations would help ensure that the government’s funds are being used effectively to produce a physician health workforce that will support our growing and aging population,” says Fitzhugh Mullan, co-director of the George Washington University Health Workforce Institute. “We already have promising evidence that many participants in the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program established through the Affordable Care Act intend to practice in underserved areas,” he notes.

“Our nation’s health workforce has evolved over time, and the country’s future medical security depends on our ability to ensure that we have enough doctors, as well as nurses and other providers of the types needed and in the locations where we need them,” adds Patricia Pittman, the other co-director of GW’s Health Workforce Institute.

“HHS Needs Better Information to Comprehensively Evaluate Graduate Medical Education Funding” is available here